Author’s wife donated ‘Dracula salad’ recipe to help church

Bram Stoker's wife Florence contributed to the recipe book, with sales used to build a church extension.

Recipe: Florence Balcombe contributed Dracula Salad to the church recipe book. church of scotland
Recipe: Florence Balcombe contributed Dracula Salad to the church recipe book.

The wife of the creator of the world’s most famous vampire donated a recipe for ‘Dracula Salad’ to help renovate an historic Aberdeenshire church.

Florence Balcombe contributed to a pamphlet sold in aid of Cruden Parish Church shortly after her husband Bram Stoker died in 1912.

The entry reads: “Arrange alternative slices of ripe tomatoes and ripe purple egg shaped plums in dish and dress with oil and vinegar French dressing.”

All the proceeds from the sale of ‘Cruden Recipes and Wrinkles’ went towards building an extension at Cruden Parish Church, which dates back to 1776, to house an organ.


Minister Rev Sean Swindells revealed the Irish author’s association with his congregation in an online reflection.

Bram Stoker, who was raised in the Church of Ireland, was a regular visitor to Cruden Bay between 1893 and 1910 and wrote the early chapters of Dracula there.

He took the inspiration for Castle Dracula from nearby Slains Castle, a ruined cliff top fortress which has a distinctive octagonal hall which matches the description of a room in the Gothic horror novel.

Florence Balcombe is said to have spent a lot of her time playing golf in Cruden Bay and meeting with friends while her husband was writing.


Mr Swindells said: “For each day of lockdown, I have been publishing a reflection on the church Facebook page and website and we have held online Bible study groups, Sunday evening services and provided pastoral support via phone and email.

“To keep things fresh and relevant this has included some key historical figures like Bram Stoker and to date the most popular reflection appears to be the one about the blood sucking Count Dracula that we published.

“It is a fascinating piece of history but of course within the Christian religion, the shedding of blood through sacrifice for the forgiveness of sins, takes on a completely new dimension.

“Rather than the sacrifice of an animal, Jesus the Messiah and Son of God, becomes the sacrifice.

“His shedding of blood and death by the Romans through crucifixion, is seen as a once for all cosmic act of forgiveness.”

Rev Sean Swindells with the recipe for Dracula Salad

London-based Bram Stoker wrote two other books in Cruden Bay – The Watter’s Mou’ and The Mystery of the Sea – but remains most famous for Dracula.


The eponymous character has been brought to life on the silver screen by actors Christopher Lee and Gary Oldman.

Mike Shepherd, author of ‘When Brave Men Shudder: The Scottish origins of Dracula’, said: “Bram Stoker fell in love with the village and used it as his writing den, returning year after year.

“He was a part-time author and he ran the Lyceum Theatre in London which was owned by the most famous actor in the world at the time, Henry Irving.

“Stoker would get a month off every summer when the theatre shut down and while he wrote Florence played golf in the village and met friends.

“She submitted two recipes for the pamphlet, including the Dracula Salad, because of the links between her late husband, Cruden Bay and Dracula.”

Has the pandemic created a mental health ‘ticking time bomb’?

There has been a huge demand for mental health services as people struggle to cope during lockdown.

We have never been more focused on health as we do everything we can to stop the spread of coronavirus. 

But this year the pressure on our mental health has been undeniable as we all adjust to a new way of living.

It’s been particularly hard for 39-year-old Robert Allen. Just two years ago he was on the verge of suicide until thoughts of his wife Lesley and son Cameron, five, brought him back from the brink.

“I had serious thoughts about how I was going to do it, where I was going to do it,” Robert says. “It was almost like that was all I could think about.


“I just had this sweeping feeling through my mind that I couldn’t have my son growing up thinking that I didn’t love him.”

Robert Allen with his wife Lesley and son Cameron.

On Scotland Tonight, to be broadcast on STV at 7.30pm on Thursday, he tells how a support group called The Changing Room – which unites men around their love of football – has helped him with his mental health.

But with the lack of face-to-face contact for such groups during the pandemic, Robert fears lockdown has created a “ticking time bomb”.

Here’s Robert’s story:


I hadn’t really opened up to my wife about anything for a long time. She had no idea. And it was just like this outpouring. Straight away I started to feel better. Because I felt like there is another way to go. I wasn’t suddenly cured or better but I did feel this is a turning point. 

What’s so reassuring about it [Changing Room] is you’ll be talking about something that’s affected your or how you’re feeling and there’ll be other guys in the group and they’ll be like, yeah, that’s just like me.

So straight away you’re thinking I’m not on my own with this. 

One of the key things about the Changing Room is that you’re going somewhere and you’re meeting with people face to face – but obviously you couldn’t do that because lockdown rules didn’t allow it. So, we were creative and we set up a series of Zoom phone calls and the lads joined in.

But it’s not the same. I didn’t feel as comfortable on the Zoom call as I would have if I’d been sitting just together in a group. There have been times where I’ve struggled a wee bit.

I think we have almost a ticking timebomb coming.

There’s been a huge demand for help


Chris Creegan knows only too well the strain on mental health services at the moment.

The chairman of the Scottish Association for Mental Health (SAMH) is worried about the impact of lockdown.

He tells Scotland Tonight: “We’ve seen a huge demand for information and advice from across the general population.

“The mental health system that we have in Scotland was already creaking. We have an enormous need, an enormous demand and at the same time we know that referrals have actually dropped. So there’s pent-up demand in the system and that’s a perfect storm. 

“Our real priority are people who came into this pandemic with pre-existing mental health problems. Many of them have had services withdrawn and they’re having to deal with the uncertainty. 

“Simply retuning, restarting is not going to be enough. We’re going to have to really rethink the whole way in which we provide mental health services in Scotland. And we’re going to have to inject an enormous amount of energy and investment into the provision of mental health services.

“There needs to be a plan. There needs to be a plan because people’s lives depend on it.”

You can read more about Robert’s story here and can contact the Scottish Association for Mental Health on 0344 800 0550 or by emailing

Seven more deaths of people with coronavirus in Scotland

It's the highest number of fatalities in the country since June 17, while there are 640 new cases.

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Seven more people with coronavirus have died in Scotland, the highest daily total since June 17.

It takes the death toll among patients who died within 28 days of their coronavirus test to 2519.

Separate weekly figures from National Records of Scotland show that up to Sunday, September 27, a total of 4257 deaths have been registered where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate.

That includes ten deaths last week – five in hospital, four in care homes and one in another setting.


These weekly figures include those who died more than 28 days after testing positive for the virus, as well as those who were suspected to have it but were not tested.

Speaking at the daily Covid briefing, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: “We, of course, should never think of these deaths as statistics, every single one of them represents the loss of a unique and irreplaceable individual.

“I want to send my deepest condolences to everyone who has lost a loved one, and that particularly includes those who have lost loved ones in the last few days.”

The country has confirmed 640 new Covid cases overnight, the FM added, which amounts to 10.3% of newly-tested Scots, down from 11.5% and 806 cases on Tuesday.


Of those cases, 232 – more than a third – are in the Greater Glasgow and Clyde health board area, where a campus cluster at the University of Glasgow is ongoing.

There are 160 new infections in Lothian and 73 in Lanarkshire.

A total of 137 people around Scotland are in hospital being treated for coronavirus, which is a rise of 14 in 24 hours.

Of these patients, 14 were in intensive care, down two from the revised figure of 16 the previous day.

Sturgeon said there were 94 new hospital admissions for the virus last week – up 60% from the figure of 58 the previous week.

This means “we could not afford complacency”, she told the briefing.

Epic cycle to honour ex-Scotland cricket captain Con de Lange

Former teammates Craig Wallace and Ali Evans aim to pedal 672 miles to raise funds for brain tumour research.

Con de Lange died with a brain tumour aged 38.

Two former teammates of late Scotland cricket captain Con de Lange are embarking on an epic cycling challenge to raise money for cancer research in his memory.

Craig Wallace and Ali Evans aim to pedal 672 miles – representing the fact that De Lange was the 672nd person to play cricket for Scotland.

Their seven-day route across the east of the country will encompass some of De Lange’s favourite clubs and destinations.

South Africa-born De Lange died at the age of 38 in 2019, 16 months after being diagnosed with a brain tumour.


Craig and Ali’s mammoth cycle journey gets underway in Dundee on Friday and their journey will also take in St Andrews, Perth, Aberdeen and Edinburgh before finishing up in Carnoustie.

Coronavirus restrictions meant the original plan to visit many county grounds in England, including Northampton and Blackburn, have been scrapped.

Craig said: “Con was just such a proper, genuine and nice man; one of the finest gentleman I have ever met.

“He was always the one who would go round the dressing room, checking everyone was OK. He loved pulling pranks on us and would always have some kind of remote control spider or snake, which he would leave lurking around someone’s hotel room when we were away on tour.

“I’m fortunate to have met him through cricket. Con represented Scotland in 2015 and took the team from strength to strength.


“It’s where I and so many got to see his cheeky smile, his caring attitude and most importantly his competitive nature, every day.”

De Lange began his cricket career in his native South Africa in 1998, playing for the likes of Knights and Free State and had two years with Northants before playing for Ferguslie and Clydesdale in Scotland.

He also coached Clydesdale and Western Warriors.

De Lange captained Scotland to their first 50-over victory over an ICC full member in May 2017, hitting the winning runs as Scotland chased down 287 against Sri Lanka.

He took five wickets as Scotland recorded their first one-day international triumph against a full member when they beat Zimbabwe later that year.

De Lange is survived by his wife Claire and their two children, Daisy and Rory.

Craig and Ali’s Cycle for Con has already raised £4,600 for the charity Brain Tumour Research,

Gus Mackay, Chief Executive of Cricket Scotland, said: “It is fantastic to see the cricket community come together to raise nearly £5,000 to support Craig and Ali’s #Cycle4Con challenge in honour of the late Con de Lange.

“Cricket Scotland is behind Craig and Ali all the way, and we can’t wait to follow along with their progress and see how much is raised for Brain Tumour Research.”  

To sponsor Craig and Ali, visit  and their journey can be followed by using the hashtag #CycleforCon.

Nominate unsung heroes for Pride of Scotland Awards

The event - which will mirror the successful Pride of Britain Awards - will be shown on STV later this year.

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Celebration: Nominations are now open for the Pride of Scotland Awards.

A new awards ceremony will celebrate ordinary people doing extraordinary things.

The Pride of Scotland Awards will honour unsung heroes who’ve transformed the lives of people around them – and will include the STV Children’s Appeal Child / Teenager of Courage Award.

The event – which will mirror the successful Pride of Britain Awards – will be shown on STV later this year.

The 90-minute programme will see famous faces from the worlds of showbiz, sport and politics celebrate the bravest, most remarkable people from every corner of Scotland. 


Nominated by the public, the inspirational award-winners will come from all age groups, and all walks of life. Nominations are now open, but will close at 5pm on Friday.

Pride of Scotland: The awards will be shown on STV later this year.

Award categories

  • STV Children’s Appeal Child / Teenager of Courage Award
  • TSB Community Hero
  • Young Fundraiser of the Year
  • Outstanding Bravery
  • Special Recognition
  • Emergency Services Award
  • Lifetime Achievement

For more information and to nominate, click here.

Dozens of birds of prey illegally killed in 2019 – report

Highest concentration of crimes were in Scotland and the north of England.

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Red Kites were among the birds illegally killed.

Dozens of birds of prey were illegally shot, trapped and poisoned in 2019, according to the latest bird crime report from the RSPB.

There were 85 confirmed incidents of bird of prey persecution last year, involving birds such as buzzards, red kites, peregrine falcons, golden eagles and hen harriers, the report found.

The highest concentrations of crimes were in the north of England and Scotland, with North Yorkshire the worst spot, and half the confirmed incidents occurred within protected landscapes, the conservation charity said.

The RSPB said its data, peer-reviewed science and population surveys showed persecution was concentrated on and near grouse moors, and called for tougher action on the industry to end the killing of protected species.


It also said a growing number of satellite-tagged birds of prey such as hen harriers were vanishing in suspicious circumstances – leading conservationists to believe they had been illegally killed.

And persecution continued during the Covid-19 lockdown, according to the RSPB, with its investigation unit seeing its busiest ever spring dealing with reports of bird of prey crimes and helping police with investigations.

The charity is urging the Government to act to address “environmentally damaging practices” by grouse moors including persecution of birds of prey and burning of moorland vegetation on peat soils.

All birds of prey are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, but the RSPB warned the law was failing to protect them.


Mark Thomas, the RSPB’s head of investigations UK, said: “Once again the bird crime report shows that protected birds of prey like hen harriers, peregrines and golden eagles are being relentlessly persecuted, particularly in areas dominated by driven grouse shooting.

“At a time when the world – and the UK in particular – is seeing catastrophic declines in wildlife populations, the destruction of rare wildlife looks like the opposite of progress.”

He said that there could be 12 times as many hen harriers breeding in England if illegal killing stopped and said the shooting community could not “control the criminals within their ranks”.

“UK governments must implement tougher legislation to bring the driven grouse shooting industry in line with the law, stamp out environmentally damaging practices and deliver on the UK’s nature recovery targets,” he said.

Amanda Anderson, director of the Moorland Association, which represents moor owners and managers in England, said bird crime figures were down compared to those issued by the RSPB last year.

And she said: “We condemn in the strongest possible terms all forms of wildlife crime, including any incidents of bird of prey persecution, and the moorland sector has a zero tolerance approach to such activity.

“The Moorland Association and its members are committed to restoring bird of prey populations to sustainable levels, and are delighted to have helped achieve the recent increases in their populations.”


She pointed to a record breeding season for hen harriers in England with 12 out of the 19 successful nests located on grouse moors, producing 40 out of the 60 chicks which fledged.

“Grouse moors are welcome habitats for a wide range of wildlife and we work diligently alongside local police groups to tackle any criminal activity,” she added.

A Government spokesperson said: “We recognise the importance of tackling wildlife crime, which is why we directly fund the National Wildlife Crime Unit who provide intelligence and support to police forces protecting our precious wildlife – including birds of prey.”

“We are clear those found guilty of killing these majestic animals should be subject to the full force of the law.”

Union calls for key worker bonus payment for council workers

GMB members will protest outside the Scottish Parliament to show their support for key staff who worked during lockdown.

Union is calling for council workers to receive a 'key worker' bonus.

A union is calling for council workers who worked during the Covid-19 lockdown to receive a “key worker” bonus.

GMB members will protest outside the Scottish Parliament on Thursday as part of a campaign to receive the additional payment.

Council workers, including carers, bin collectors and school cleaners, are campaigning for a £2 an hour additional payment for every hour worked during the lockdown.

The GMB says this would result in around £85 extra a week for each worker.


They call on the First Minister to “pay up for key workers”, having previously submitted an 8,000-strong petition to her in July.

GMB Scotland senior organiser Drew Duffy said: “While workers that can will work from home again, our key workers will continue to go the extra mile. The least the First Minister can do is recognise and reward their incredible value to our communities and country.

“However, the bulk of the frontline response will continue to be delivered on the backs of low paid and often exploited workers, many of whom are women or from BME backgrounds, and earn just under or just over £10 an hour.

“After the applause of the first lockdown, many workers have been left to get on with it, and in some cases the working practices put in place to mitigate the spread of Covid are being eroded by employers who want to get ‘back to normal’.


“This shouldn’t sit comfortably with anyone who wants Scotland to be a ‘fair work’ nation and as we head into what looks like a turbulent autumn and winter, where the threat of covid is rising again, we cannot ignore our frontline heroes.

“Claps and kind words are welcomed but they won’t improve the conditions of the chronically low-paid or help their families in these tough times, and that’s why we are again asking the First Minister to pay up for our key workers.”

Two people stranded on cut off beach rescued by lifeboat

The man and woman had walked six miles along the beach.

Lifeboat: Two rescued on Lossiemouth Beach.

Two people have been rescued by lifeboat after they were stranded on a beach which is cut off at high tide.

The man and woman walked six miles along Lossiemouth Beach in Moray before realising they could not get back because the bridge over the river separating the beach from the town of Lossiemouth was shut.

Buckie RNLI lifeboat rescued the pair after they called the coastguard for help at around 8.05pm on Wednesday.

Coastguard teams from Buckie and Burghead were also sent to the scene to help.


The bridge was closed in July last year due to safety concerns.

Tory MSP thrown out the chamber for calling Sturgeon a liar

Oliver Mundell accused the FM of lying to parliament when she pledged full transparency to Holyrood's Salmond inquiry.


A Conservative MSP has been ejected from the Holyrood chamber after accusing the First Minister of lying to parliament and then refusing to apologise for the remark.

Dumfriesshire MSP Oliver Mundell claimed Nicola Sturgeon had lied when she previously pledged full co-operation and transparency with Holyrood’s inquiry into how harassment complaints against Alex Salmond were dealt with.

On Tuesday, the Scottish Tories suggested the FM had “misled” parliament amid frustration among MSPs on the inquiry with the lack of evidence it has received, with its convener going as far as to accuse the Scottish Government of “obstruction”.

Mundell, who is the son of former Scottish secretary David Mundell, raised this as a point of order in the Scottish Parliament chamber on Wednesday.


Challenged about his use of language by presiding officer Ken Macintosh, he refused to withdraw his accusation that the First Minister had “lied to parliament”.

The presiding officer then demanded he leave.

Outright accusing another elected member of telling a lie in the chamber is deemed unparliamentary language.

After Salmond successfully took the Scottish Government to court in 2019 over its botched handling of harassment complaints against him, a special committee of MSPs was set up to investigate what had happened.


Regarding the committee’s work, on January 17 the First Minister told MSPs: “The inquiries will be able to request whatever material they want, and I undertake today that we will provide whatever material they request.”

She also repeatedly pledged the Scottish Government would “cooperate fully” with the probe and offer maximum possible transparency.

But SNP MSP and inquiry convener Linda Fabiani said on Tuesday the committee is experiencing “frankly, obstruction” from the Scottish Government.

It has previously complained of missed deadlines for evidence and key files heavily redacted or withheld by the government, with officials citing legal reasons for doing so.

Fabiani said the committee still awaits written submissions from the Scottish Government, from SNP chief executive Peter Murrell – Sturgeon’s husband – and from Salmond himself – and “simply cannot proceed” without the evidence it needs.

Citing the First Minister’s remarks to the chamber in January, Mundell repeated the Conservative accusation that she had misled MSPs.

He said: “Will the presiding officer ask the First Minister to explain why she lied to parliament?”


Macintosh said the issue is being looked at by the committee and suggested Mundell raise the matter with it directly or ask the question during a parliamentary debate.

The presiding officer then asked the Tory MSP to “apologise for using the term ‘lied’ in the chamber”.

But Mundell declined, and said: “I do feel it is the appropriate word, and I can’t find anything else that would express the sentiment.”

Macintosh urged him to make his point “without personalising and making pejorative terms which are disrespectful to other members” and said his remarks were not “befitting of Mr Mundell’s character”.

The Dumfriesshire MSP hit back: “I think it’s disrespectful to the parliament for the First Minister to make a promise and not to keep it.

“But I can’t withdraw the word, no.”

The presiding officer answered: “I’m going to have to ask you to leave the chamber, I don’t think that language is acceptable.”

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said any suggestion Sturgeon had misled Holyrood is “demonstrably false”.

She added: “The First Minister has agreed to personally give evidence to the committee – and as we have made clear, not only is the government providing all possible material to the committee, we intend to initiate legal proceedings seeking to allow the release of further documents.”

First Bus to report pupils to police for not wearing masks

The firm said youngsters are putting drivers’ lives at risk and will be reporting them to Police Scotland from now on.

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Warning: First Bus threaten to call police if pupils fail to wear a mask.

A bus company has threatened to report pupils to police over complaints they are refusing to wear face masks on board its vehicles.

First Bus claims in a letter to schools in Glasgow that a “significant number” of students have been flouting the rules designed to stem the spread of coronavirus.

The firm said they are putting drivers’ lives at risk and will be reporting them to Police Scotland if “further breaches of the wearing of face coverings are identified”.

Duncan Cameron, operations director, added: “In the main, we are seeing a high compliance of passengers wearing face coverings and we remain confident that the public will do the right thing and wear a face covering on board public transport to protect themselves and others.


“However, First Glasgow were made aware of an issue in regards to some school pupils failing to comply with Scottish Government guidance around the mandatory use of face coverings on public transport whilst using our regular services to get to and from school over the last few weeks.

“The feedback from both drivers and local stakeholders was then investigated by our staff who carried out spot checks and confirmed an issue on a small number of services in the city.

“We have therefore taken the immediate action to contact all schools across our Greater Glasgow area network to plea for them to work in partnership with us to help stamp out this issue before it becomes any worse.”

He added most schools which had been contacted had tried to be helpful.

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